A five-year extension of the 0.5 percent general excise tax surcharge on Oahu is supposed to cover the growing shortfall for Honolulu’s $6.6 billion (and counting) rail project.

Officials from the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation say that the extension should raise from $1.2 billion to $1.8 billion for the project; they’re using $1.5 billion as the mid-range estimate.

But some politicians, including Honolulu City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, worry that passing the extension is just throwing good money after bad. Kobayashi has wondered whether it might be better to scrap the 20-mile project altogether.

After all, Hawaii does have a lot of needs for public funds, whether it’s to help our homeless, fix our crumbling infrastructure or provide a better life for Micronesian immigrants.

It can also be hard to grasp just how much money $1.5 billion is, when considering what else that amount could be spent on.

So Civil Beat decided to ask:

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